My daughter Annabelle is currently in pre-Kindergarten and I’ve loved watching her growth over the school year thus far, physically, socially, and mentally. She’s developed a passion for art and comes home every day after school and dives right into drawing pictures, creating blinged-out mosaic butterflies – you name it. Anything creative that I call a “project” gets her jumping up and down with excitement. She’s a chip off the ole block, I was very artistic as a child too.

It’s exciting for me to see her developing strong skills and hobbies at the age of four. I’m so proud of my little girl! So I was disappointed when progress report time rolled around and I was alerted that Annabelle needs to work on number and letter recognition for several letters and numbers she could not name when asked by her teacher.

Ugh, could I be more freaking deflated?

Annnnnd suddenly this proud mama is concerned about whether my younger pre-K’er, who turned four just five days before the pre-k age cut off, is ready for kindergarten. Immediately we run out and purchase a numbers booklet that has stickers and coloring tasks on each page to help with her number recognition.

Am I failing as a parent?

IMG_7539 (1)I kick myself and wonder; Geez, am I supposed to be doing flash cards with her daily? Am I supposed to have the presence of mind to ask her to count things on a billboard as we’re driving by every single day? My daughter is in pre-K. She’s not even in Kindergarten yet, so in my mind, helping her with homework is still a year or two away. I let her come home and play. She moves from the art table, to her Barbies, to quiet time watching a movie, and then back to her art table for more creative time. But now I feel like I need to be sitting down at the table with my 4 year old helping her with her number and letter recognition, finding myself getting super frustrated if she doesn’t retain the info as quickly as I would like her to. (P.S. I’ve learned that I could never be a home schooling mama, NO WAY IN HELL.)

So I met with the teacher to discuss the progress report and she first wanted to put me at ease and say that Annabelle is doing very well and this is not a conversation about whether or not she’s ready for kindergarten. She did mention that as she gets older, like in kindergarten, if she is still unable to recognize her numbers and letters they may test for a learning disability. WHAT!

Ok, now I feel a bit of my blood boiling. Annabelle is bright! She’s talented and social and inquisitive and all the wonderful things!!!! She’s F-O-U-R, how can a learning disability even be brought up at the tender age of four, for a little girl that is correctly writing her 9 letter name and is more artistic than many 6 year olds?! I mean, check out this pic of Snow White in the forest that she drew, pretty good, I think!

snow white drawing

We discussed that Annabelle may feel on the spot when they quiz her and she’s afraid to say the wrong thing, because at home when she holds the flash cards in her own hands she can name many letters. She feels more pressure when an adult is peering down at her waiting for an answer.

I don’t blame her teacher. She’s a great teacher, and again, she was trying to rest my nerves about the learning process. I guess I’m just surprised at the heightened standards that have developed over the last 10 years or so. My mother in law, a retired elementary teacher, has tried to calm my fears and shared an article that I found interesting entitled The Disturbing Transformation of Kindergarten. In the article; it takes to task the higher standards that are expected of kindergartners, whereas many years ago there was a higher or equal emphasis on play and developmental learning in those settings. The article pinpoints the No Child Left Behind act that essentially forced higher standards to younger children to prepare them for reading and writing earlier.

Two major studies showed the value of play vs. educational learning at this age. Students who learned to read at 5 had no greater advantage than students who learned at 7. And according to the study, the kids with more play time fared better at comprehension by age 11 because their interactive play improved their communication development.

I’m by no means an expert on this type of stuff, but the article helped me to understand what’s happening in schools today as far as expectations go, and why. Speaking to her teacher is a reminder to me that I need to work with Annabelle at home for about 5-10 minutes every day on learning activities. I had fallen victim to first time parent cluelessness in which I assumed my daughter was learning everything she needed to know in pre-k to prepare for kindergarten. Now I know that’s not the case so I will do more.

It’s crazy to think how much things have changed since my childhood, when I didn’t even go to pre-K and I slept most of my afternoon kindergarten class! Times, they are a changin’ moms and dads! That means less time mindlessly perusing your social media accounts and letting your kids happily play all afternoon. It’s time to get on your four year old’s level and get to teaching. Kindergarten ain’t no joke.

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